Everyone needs help sometimes, whether that’s because of something happening in your personal life or in your career. The question is what’s the right resource?
In this article we’re looking at some of the distinctions between coaching and therapy. Both are extremely useful, but they serve slightly different functions and work in slightly different ways.
Therapy is absolutely the place to go if you are in serious mental or emotional distress. There are literally thousands of wonderful therapists, and dozens, if not hundreds, of modalities for therapy.
Usually, the therapist will invite you to talk about your experiences and the situations you’re facing in your life. They will work with you identify patterns of behavior and thoughts that may be getting in your way. They’re also trained to notice various symptoms of mental illness and guide clients toward treatments.
Both coaches and therapists will help clients articulate their goals, and then work toward them. Some coaches will also help clients notice patterns of behavior and thought get in the way of reaching those goals. The difference is that therapists will typically help a client dig into the origins of those patterns. They’ll help uncover the family history or life events that contributed, which can support acceptance and healing. In coaching, we rarely delve deep into origin stories. Instead, our focus is on practical strategies. We look at what you need to do going forward to meet your goals.
Typically, therapists don’t have specific strategies for helping people with their careers. And they usually don’t have deep experience in the corporate world. So, while a therapist can offer insights into interpersonal dynamics from a behavior and mindset perspective, that’s as far as it goes. They don’t necessarily have the perspective to help someone be successful in navigating workplace dynamics. If you’re facing challenges with your colleagues or your boss, are looking to move up in your company, or area looking for a new job, a leadership and career coach will be a better choice.
Working with a therapist doesn’t preclude working with a coach. I’ve supported many clients who are simultaneously seeing a therapist, or who completed a course of therapy and then sought me out. Either way, what they learn in therapy is often a useful background for our work.
Just as there are multiple approaches to therapy, there are also hundreds of variations of coaches. You can have a physical coach or trainer who helps you with your physical conditioning. Nutrition coaches help you decide what kinds of foods to eat. Life coaches help people identify overall life goals and direction. A career coach can help you find a new job.
Combining career coaching with leadership coaching is what I do. Specifically, I help mid-career professionals identify goals for the next phase of their careers and then achieve them.
In some cases, we help our clients make the most of their current roles. They build communication and influence skills and an authentic executive presence, so people listen to what they have to say. We teach them how to maneuver through corporate politics and make the most of their relationships, so they get noticed and get ahead. We help them deepen their leadership skills so that they can build high-performing teams that get results.
In other cases, we help our clients move on to new jobs. We map out a strategy for pursuing the roles that interest them. We help them tell the story of their career in a compelling way on their resume and in interviews. We support them through the job search process to understand the organizations they’re considering, so they can determine whether the new job, new company and especially new boss will be a good fit for them.
In either case, a unique aspect of my background is that I spent 20 years consulting to organizations and teams, so I have a deep understanding of organizational politics and dynamics that can get in the way for people. Not all coaches have this background. Those who can, help you see the group patterns that we all get swept up in sometimes. For example, I can help a client see when they’re being scapegoated. Or when their colleagues are going “one-up” to them and undermining their credibility. More importantly, I know how to help clients move through these situations. Also, seeing patterns means you can take them less personally. That means you can move through them with less personal pain and distress. Moreover, as a leader, you can pass on these same lessons to your team – supporting your people in a whole new way.
Whether you choose to work with a therapist or a coach of some sort, having someone who is truly in your corner can make a big difference. Unlike mentors, friends, and even family members, an ethical professional will be there for you without their own agenda. Because they’re outside of your situation, they can see things that you – and those who care about you – may not see. Those insights can help you move forward in new ways.
I hope you’re doing well, that your mental health is strong, and that you’re getting the support that you need. If you’re not, I hope this blog has provided you with some guidance about where to turn and inspired you to reach out. I believe everyone deserves to have happy, healthy, productive, successful lives. Getting coaching, therapy, or support in whatever form can be a crucial ingredient to making that happen. If you’d like to know more about how we work with our clients, please reach out to my team. We’ll get on the phone with you for about 45 minutes to learn more about your situation. If we believe we can help, we’ll let you know and talk with you about what that could look like. If we’re not the right fit, we’ll tell you that, too, and do our best to point you to someone else. Either way, you’ll walk away with a clear next step for moving forward in your career and in your life.
You can reach out to us by booking a call at zmcoach.com/apply. We look forward to talking with you soon.
Here’s a video if you prefer to watch and listen to me talk about this topic: